6 Dec 2023

Making your Christmas dollar go further

From Nine To Noon, 11:45 am on 6 December 2023

People frantically rushing to the mall on 24 December will be those most likely to overspend this Christmas, says finance writer Lisa Dudson.

The best way to take control of holiday spending and save your own sanity, she tells Susie Ferguson, is with some planning.

"The more you plan and the more organised you are, the more stress you take out of the whole Christmas period."

Man in a Santa suit counting money

Photo: Dima D

Lisa Dudson is the owner of Acumen.co.nz. Her advice is of a general nature.

After a couple of years of high interest rates, everyone's feeling the pinch a lot more this Christmas, Dudson says.

As long as possible before the big day, she recommends sitting down with your partner or family and setting a budget of X dollars to spend on gifts, meals and experiences.

Gift spending can sometimes get a bit out of control, Dudson says, on items that often get thrown in the back of a cupboard played with for five minutes then discarded.

Writing up a gift list - of who you're going to buy gifts for how much you might want to spend on each of those people - can be really helpful.

To save money, homemade gifts such as brownies, pickles, jam or even veggies or flowers from your garden can be nice.

Charitable gifts, in which families decide that instead of spending money on Christmas presents they'll lend a hand to others "doing it seriously tough" via charity donations, can be an interesting lesson for your kids, Dudson says.

Remember that your time - in the form of a night's babysitting, mowing lawns or cleaning a house - can also be a "fantastic gift".

"When you get older, you realize how special that is when someone's actually put the time into making something for you rather than just zipping through the shop."

Don't be afraid to take advantage of post-Christmas sales for Christmas gifts, Dudson says.

"It's okay to say 'Look, I'm going to buy you something but I'm going to buy it in the sales after Christmas' or 'Here's a $100 voucher to buy something at the post-Christmas sales'."

If you happen to be "super organised", Boxing Day sales are a great place to buy supplies for next year.

"Not many people are that organised but that can be a really good idea, particularly if you need to top up your Christmas tree decorations and your Christmas wrapping paper."

When it comes to a Christmas meal, Dudson recommends potlucks as a way to spend less and create a more communal atmosphere.

For the Christmas Day potluck she's hosting for a group of friends this year, each person will bring a favourite Christmas dish they've chosen to make. Dudson will "fill in the blanks" and let people know if there are any double-ups.

"You get that community spirit with everyone sharing and then also enjoying it more because they've got [a Christmas dish] that they've created themselves and one of their favourites."